Burn ban violaters could see tough penalties

By Gabe Monte: CNJ staff writer

Violating an open flames ban in the county could lead to jail time if the Curry County Commission approves a proposed ordinance next month.

The ordinance would punish offenders with a fine of up to $300 and up to 90 days in jail. County commissioners initiated procedure to adopt the ordinance during a Tuesday meeting that would regulate what types of fires are allowed in the county year-round.

Under the proposal, open flames would be permitted for barbecuing, heating, recreation and ceremonial purposes when winds are below 10 mph. The sheriff’s office would have to be given a 24-hour notice for other types of fires, such as trash or crop land.

The ordinance allows for the county to enact a complete burn ban during severe drought conditions, which they did in March. The burn ban, which supersedes, is reviewed on a monthly basis.

The burn ban imposes a fine of $50 for the first violation, $100 for the second violation and $300 for the third violation.

County Manager Lance Pyle said the proposed ordinance will help enforce the county’s burn ban.

“It lays out things a lot more clearer,” he said.

In other business:

• Commissioners voted to support a finance plan draft and grant/loan agreements for the Ute Water Project. The project proposes to build a pipeline from the Ute reservoir to eight entities in eastern New Mexico.

Under the finance plan, the cost of the $436 million project will be shared by the federal government (75 percent), the state (25 percent) and local governments (10 percent), according to project financial consultant Kevin Powers.

• Commissioners voted to open a portion of County Road J from State Road 19 to County Road 34.